Nashville Predators: Laviolette must set defense to help offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 08: Roman Josi
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 08: Roman Josi /

The new season inches ever closer, and the Nashville Predators have a roster filled with talent. But, how does the defense aid the offense?

Man, is it ever hot outside. So hot that sitting in a tub filled with ice sounds great. And, ice in general just sounds amazing. Why not talk about play on the ice and help us all cool down. While there is still time between now and the time camp starts, there is plenty to talk about with the Nashville Predators.

We have an idea on how the Predators will set their offensive lines. The now-famous JoFA line – for those of you new to the team’s fandom, that would be Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson – should be the starting line. With their scoring prowess, it just make sense that they are the go-to line.

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After that, things get a bit tricky to predict. The second line from the 2016-17 season is gone. Well, unless Mike Fisher returns, but I doubt that he will be on the second line. Speculation is that Nick Bonino will take the center spot, and will be flanked by Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith. Yet, Pontus Aberg could step up to this line, as could Colton Sissons if he is moved to the wing. The combination of Bonino’s Stanley Cup experience with the youth-filled talent of the wings could make this another amazing line.

The third line is set to be led by Calle Jarnkrok. Scott Hartnell is likely to slotted on this line, along with any one of those not on the second line.

Weakness need covered

Each line has a weakness, and that weakness can be covered by the defense.

Well, maybe JoFA does not have a glaring weakness, surely there is one. They each possess a Corsi rating high that 54 percent. But only Johansen wins more than thirty-three percent of his face-offs out of the crew. Of course, that is part of his job anyway.

But, the second line is completely new. We have no idea what to expect out of all the players. Bonino has solid experience, but was on the third line in Pittsburgh. The youth of Fiala and Aberg is filled with promise, but still unproven.  Controlling the puck with this line must be supported by the defense.

The third line is more experienced than the second line, but possibly less powerful.

That is where the defense comes in to play. It is the heart-and-soul of the Nashville Predators team. The strength of the defense is not hitting and dominating at the blue line, it is complimenting the offense through scoring. Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis all scored more than 38 points last season.

When you add Mattias Ekholm to the mix, you have four of the top nine Predators in point shares. Ekholm finished with 23 points last year, but notched 35 in 2015-16.

And, now the team has Alexei Emelin, a player that is not afraid to play with a physical edge. No defender on the Nashville Predators earned more than 78 hits last year, but did earn more than 100 blocks each. The physical play was left to Fisher and the wings. Emelin reached 241 hits on his own last season.

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The question is, how to set these defensive players to best compliment the offense. That is the challenge Peter Laviolette faces. What say you?